Dauphin Demi-Bastion and Gate

Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site

Dauphin Demi-Bastion (1)

When you leave the fishing property, stop for a moment to look at those walls ahead of you. There is no better place from which to sense the challenge Louisbourg poses to an attacker. From here to the walls you are under the muzzles of heavy artillery and in the sights of musketmen. See how the guns of the King’s Bastion on your right flank support the close range fire of the Dauphin demi-bastion ahead. There is no scrap of cover. Men have died on the ground you tread.

Approaching the walls, you pass through a narrow cut in the earthen glacis that forms the outer defences. Protection for the walls, these earthworks can also shelter advanced parties of soldiers.

Dauphin Gate

Dauphin Gate

There were only three land gates and a couple of wharves to give entry to Louisbourg. This one, the principal land entrance, was manned around the clock by an officer and thirty soldiers. Fishermen, wagoneers and children could pass in and out all day long, but each night the sentries ceremoniously locked the gate and raised the bridge. Do you begin to sense the authority of a fortress town? And, in the coat of arms and trophies around the gate, its majesty too?

The gate is carefully designed, from the sluice gate controlling water levels to the musket loopholes staring at you from the walls, to the graceful sentry box called a guerite observing you from high above the ditch. But brute force is a fortress’s stock-in-trade-most of these details were pounded to rubble in two sieges of Louisbourg. Archaeologists recovered fragments of the original sculptured trophies here, and their duplicates were cut in limestone from the same French quarry.

Through the massive doors the path is flanked by guardrooms, soldiers’ on your right, officers’ on your left. Beyond the soldiers’ guardroom is a sea-drained latrine, neatly built into the wall but silted in by the 1740s. On the left a six gun battery called the épéron juts into the harbour. The wooden structure at the end is another latrine.

Dauphin Demi-Bastion

Dauphin Demi-Bastion (2)

As you explore this compact fortification, try adopting the defender’s point of view in fortress warfare. The Dauphin was designed for two tough jobs. Climbing the ramp to the left as you enter, you can see how the demi-bastion itself anchors one end of Louisbourg’s landward defences. But the Dauphin has its feet in water. Louisbourg is also a coastal fortress, and the curving “semi-circular” battery shares the task of defending the port against naval attack.

The cannon here are reproductions of French 24 livres guns—they fired a round iron ball weighing 24 livres (almost 12 kilograms, 26 pounds). Each cannon and carriage weighs several tons, and each was served by a crew of hardworking artillerymen. See how the slope of the gun platform helps roll the guns into place after each recoil.

Powder Magazine

Nestled inside the bastion are soldiers’ barracks, not much used in the 1740s, and a powder magazine. The magazine, though carefully constructed to minimize the risk of explosion, eventually proved both too vulnerable and too small, yet it has survived well: almost up to the eaves are the original eighteenth century walls.

Each time besiegers came to Louisbourg, the Dauphin attracted their attention. Because it forms a corner in the town’s defences, it came under fire from two directions, and in each siege the damage and the casualties here were grave. Imagine the experience of the men who served the heavy roaring guns in this enclosed space, as enemy fire pounded their shelter down around them.

Postern Tunnel

Postern Tunnel

A secret passage? Not quite. The troops manning the outer defences—sometimes a third of the garrison—needed swift access to the town, and this winding passage, one of three in the fortress, was easy to use and to defend. Still, there are secrets to uncover inside a postern tunnel.

Here, deep inside the walls, the slow working of water can make a fortress seem a living thing. Every part of a fortress must respect the power of dripping water—if not drained away it will slowly tear a wall apart. To unlock one secret of fortress design, look for runnels and drains and downspouts throughout the fortifications, and examine water’s traces in the reconstructed roof above you.

The Dauphin demi-bastion is particularly vulnerable, for water surrounds it. Dampness and frost plagued the engineers’ attempts to make mortar set here. One corrective measure they tried was the planking that sheathes the Dauphin walls near the tunnel’s outer door.

The reconstructed site
Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
Fortress of Louisbourg - Reconstructed buildings
On the map Building name
1 Desroches House (Wheelchair accessible)
- Dauphin Gate
- Dauphin Demi-Bastion
2 Powder Magazine
3 Barracks
4 Postern Tunnel
5 Embrasures at Lartigue
6 Lartigue House (Wheelchair accessible)
- Lime Kiln
7 Artillery Storehouse
8 Artillery Forge
9 King's Bakery Food service
- Woodlot
10 Duhaget House (Wheelchair accessible)
Garrison and Fortifications Exhibit
- Icehouse
11 De la Perelle House (Wheelchair accessible)
Congrégation de Notre-Dame Exhibit
12 De la Perelle Storehouse
13 Engineer's Residence
14 Laundry and Stables
15 Rodrigue House
16 Rodrigue Storehouse
17 De Gannes House (Wheelchair accessible)
18 Guardhouse
- King's Bastion
19 Military Chapel
20 Governor's Apartments
Fortress of Louisbourg - Reconstructed buildings
On the map Building name
21 King's Bastion Barracks
Reconstruction, Tools of War, and Archeological Typography Exhibits
- King's Garden
22 McLennan Centre (Wheelchair accessible) (Wifi available)
Virtual Reality Experience
23 De la Plagne (Wheelchair accessible) (Information)
24 De la Vallière House
Mi'kmaw Interpretive Centre
25 De la Vallière Storehouse
26 De la Vallière Storehouse II
- Fizel and Loppinot Properties
- Dugas House
27 Carrerot House
Building Techniques Exhibit
28 Benoist House (Wheelchair accessible) (Gift shop)
29 L'Épée Royale Café (Wheelchair accessible) Food service
30 King's Storehouse
31 Hôtel de la Marine (Wheelchair accessible) Food service
32 Grandchamp House (Wheelchair accessible) Food service
- Frédéric Gate
- Carcan
33 Grandchamp Inn (Wheelchair accessible) Food service
- Destouches House
34 Ordonnateur's Residence (Wheelchair accessible)
Recollecting Lives Exhibit & Harbour Gallery
35 Bigot Storehouse
36 Stables
- Louisbourg Cross
37 Marie Marguerite Rose plaque
- Eastward along the Quay
- Ruins Walk
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